The half-page article on the “Business” page of the Baltic Times (dated 4-17 April 2013 but widely available this week here in Vilnius) carries at its end the words “This is a paid advertisement.”
But these words do not succeed in mitigating the moral responsibility of the increasingly ultranationalist, far-right newspaper in disseminating hate material against any minority, least of all of in an EU / NATO member state. The inherent equality of peoples and their races and languages and national and personal identities are an inseparable component of what the European Union and NATO are all about.
Protesters against ultranationalist groups must face police and prosecutors
O P I N I O N
by Lina Žigelytė
A spectre is haunting Lithuania — the spectre of feminism. All the powers of far-right Lithuania (this includes also far-rightists who know how to present themselves as center-right) have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: puritans and watchful police officers, bloggers and self-described patriots.
The word “feminist” has become the most recent label to define the enemy of the state. This is because grassroots strategies — theatrical protests, DIY media, art projects, and solidarity with social minorities — are rapidly changing the landscape of local feminism. What is important, these strategies also invigorate the broader fight against neo-Nazism.
The following text of Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) request to the president of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania was released to the media today. The request is for the court to provide expedited hearing of the request for this summer’s Baltic Pride march to be held in central Vilnius, a project that could be thwarted by a potentially disruptive strategy to stretch out the proceedings until the time of the march in July, leaving solution impossible. See also our LGBT Rights section and LGL’s web journal For LGBT Euqality.
President of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania
O P I N I O N
by Leena Hietanen
Estonian ultranationalists traditionally celebrate Hitler’s victory on the Sinimae Hillls in eastern Estonia annually at the end of July. This year is no exception. The festivities are slated to start on the 27th of July at Sinimae.
As usual, the Estonian government is quietly giving its blessing to the proceedings. Old Estonian Waffen SS Legionaries gather on the hills to commemorate their participation on the Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany. In the battles of Sinimae Hills during the spring and summer of 1944 Estonian Waffen SS soldiers together with their fellow pro-Nazi combatants from Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland and Germany halted the progress of the Allied/Soviet front for half a year in the Eastern part of Estonia postponing the collapse of Nazi-Germany and condemning untold civilians to ongoing Nazi atrocities. Almost half of a million Hungarian Jews lost their lives in Auschwitz thanks to Estonian Legionaries. They would have survived had the Soviet advance not been tied up the Germans’ prime allies among the Estonian fascists. Continue reading
O P I N I O N
by Anna Shepherd
Lithuanian conservative politician, former Head of the Lithuanian Parliament and current EPP Member of the European Parliament Vytautas Landsbergis has consistently expressed homophobic views and spoken out against initiatives to strengthen LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights in the European community, and particularly in Lithuania itself.
Landsbergis expressed his views about LGBT rights unambiguously in his outlandish claim in 2010 that paedophilia is connected to homosexuality. This claim was made at a parliamentary hearing on the sexual abuse on children organised in the European Parliament. According to Landsbergis, children should be protected from “homosexual propaganda” and “homophilic [sic] paedophilia”. Landsbergis’ claims were condemned by Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs; and the European Parliament’s Intergroup for LGBT Rights, which stated that it condemns paedophilia unreservedly, as do all recognized LGBT organizations worldwide.
O P I N I O N
by Joseph Levinson
Joseph Levinson (Josifas Levinsonas) in Vilnius, 2013. Courtesy of the Levinson family.
On April 25th 2013 an event dedicated to the recording, maintenance and preservation of old Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania was held at the Vilnius premises of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. It was organized by the NGO “Maceva” and chaired by one of the NGO’s founders and leading figures, himself a resident of Brussels.
The April 25th evening in Vilnius went “smoothly” until a veteran member of the Jewish Community politely pointed out that much of the work that the NGO was taking credit for and presented as a miracle dropped from the heavens had in fact been carried out many years earlier by the very Jewish Community in whose premises the event was held. There was a moment of shock when the event’s chairman reacted by saying “There are different kinds of Jews!” instead of thanking the senior member of our community for his well-intentioned, polite and factual corrective remarks from the floor.
Early 1990s: Joseph Levinson spearheaded the Jewish community’s and museum’s work for the preservation and respectful marking of both old Jewish cemeteries and mass grave sites. Photo courtesy Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Since 2010, when a Lithuanian court proclaimed public swastikas legal and included in its ruling the “historical wisdom” that it only a harmless ancient Baltic symbol, swastikas have proliferated at public events sponsored by the far right, with police looking on listlessly. Most painfully for the dwindling numbers of Holocaust survivors here and abroad, swastikas and other fascist symbols, along with glorification of local Holocaust collaborators, have figured in sanctioned independence day marches in Kaunas on February 16th each year, and in the capital city Vilnius, each March 11th.
In 2012, the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee commented publicly.
The recently entered Wikipedia entry on the Seventy Years Declaration has been rapidly distorted by the usual right-wing Baltic nationalism operatives who use the free on-line encyclopedia to foster the misimpression that Prague Declaration politics are “neutral” while its opponents who oppose glorification of Nazism in Eastern Europe are “left wing.” Moreover numerous inaccuracies have been introduced in an obvious attempt to render the entry untenable and have it removed, while the far-right’s Prague Declaration politics continue to be propagated on Wikipedia with the energy of a full-time PR team.
Lrytas.lt today published an article by Martynas Čerkauskas, “Lithuanian Economics Ministry Accused of Nationalism” which follows this week’s exposés in Antifa.lt and Kauno Žinios, which all imply or claim that the neo-Nazi internet “hero” who calls himself “Zeppelinus” is actually director of the Economic Ministry’s Expansion of Human Resources Department and a member of the Tripartite Council (labor, business and government), where he is the chief representative of the government’s interests.
A sampling of images attributed to “Zeppelinus” is provided here.
A paste-in of the Facebook discussion to date on the upcoming Global Forum conferences in Jerusalem is available at:
Professor Danny Ben-Moshe on the Road in the US with premier screenings of
Rewriting History: New Documentary Film on the Shocking New Holocaust Revisionism in Eastern Europe
Film’s website ◊ Sign the Seventy Years Declaration ◊ Donate HERE
April 28th 2013 in LA
Through the good offices of the Borns Jewish Studies program at Indiana University (Bloomington), and its Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair Yiddish studies professor, D.B. Kerler (“Boris Karloff”), who allegedly knifed his own doctoral supervisor in pursuit of a summer position in Vilnius (despite having a tenured position in the US), a comrade Soviet-Israeli self-publishing Yiddish poet has been announced as visiting professor of Yiddish on the home page of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Both have in some views allowed themselves to be instrumentalized by the right-wing Holocaust-revisionist establishment that seeks to cover for state policies including rampant antisemitism and the “Double Genocide” campaign via events and stunts in the field of Yiddish and Jewish studies.
According to the announcement, Dr. Velvl Chernin is now the “visiting professor” of Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, which was purged of full-time Jewish staff in 2010 and has been criticized for being Yiddish-free for eleven months of the year.
That situation has apparently now been remedied by the appointment of Dr. Chernin, who, it is announced,
Posted in Bloomington-Borns Program Manipulated?, Double Games, Litvak Affairs, Litvak Identity-Theft as Post Holocaust Phenomenon, News
Tagged Bloomington Borns + Vilnius, Bloomington Indiana Borns Jewish Studies Program, Boris Karloff, Dov-Ber Kerler, Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Velvl Chernin, Vilnius Yiddish Institute
The following news report appeared today in For LGBT Equality:
Forthcoming EU Presidency Capital Persistent in Banning Baltic Pride March on Central Avenue
On 24 April 2013 Vilnius authorities appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, indicating that, despite the judgment by the first instance court, the municipal authorities have the right to propose a location for a public assembly other than that demanded by the organizers. “The law does not provide an organizer with the right to choose the location for a gathering unconditionally,” the municipality claims in its statement.
by Roland Binet (Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium)
Some people interested in military history have perhaps kept in mind a picture of the German Army during World War II – the Wehrmacht – as having been an army not essentially different from other belligerent armies, although, admittedly, it acted brutally and, sometimes, at the limit of what would have been deemed acceptable in times of war.
The new SYD-dedicated website www.SeventyYearsDeclaration.org was launched today.
The website marks a new phase in the international effort to halt the progress of the East European far right’s “Double Genocide” campaign across Europe and beyond. For more background on the Seventy Years Declaration (SYD) see the dedicated page, European languages page, and section in Defending History.
.LGL released the following statement in For LGBT Equality earlier today
The Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) today partially won its appeal against the decision of the Vilnius City Municipality to disallow the upcoming Baltic Pride march to be held on Gedimino Prospect, the main street of Vilnius. The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court ruled that the decision of the municipality was not legal.
The organizers of Baltic Pride and the municipality must now restart the process of negotiating the location for the Baltic Pride march.
O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
Years ago, when I first started doubting the veracity of certain propaganda intended to diminish the culpability of local forces in the Holocaust, I interviewed an elderly woman who was an eye-witness to what happened in late June of 1941 in Rokiškis (in Yiddish: Rákishok) in northern (or northeastern) Lithuania.
Obeliai (Abel) 1942: Is curiosity or concern sparked by this “celebration of 1941 partisans” coming from the apex of Nazi rule in Lithuania (1942, when the local Jews were already all murdered)? It seems not. This photo is of the 1942 Nazi-era memorial torn down by the Soviets, and just replaced by a new one, commemorating the same pro-Nazi “partisans” …
She told me how a bunch of young men turned savage, rounded up Jewish men, stuck them in what amounted to a pig sty surrounded by barbed wire in the center of town, and then tortured and humiliated them until they murdered them. She said this gang of savages went by the name of Savisaugos batalionas, which is Lithuanian for self-defense battalion. Were they led by Germans? No, she said, there hadn’t been a single German to be seen.
O P I N I O N
by Charles Adès Fishman
I could hardly believe it when I was told that you were participating in the Sutzkever Translation Prize competition as a judge. The Ed Hirsch whose work I’ve read and admired for years—the Ed Hirsch I’ve admired for years—wouldn’t allow himself to be used in a way that will help the Neo-Nazi forces in Lithuania remove the stain of antisemitism from its persecution of individuals who served as Jewish partisans during the Holocaust years.
Posted in Double Games, Litvak Affairs, News, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Sutzkever Translation Prize, USA
Tagged Charles Adès Fishman, Ed Hirsch, Holocaust in Lithuania, Jewish partisans in Lithuania, SLS, Sutzkever Translation Prize
O P I N I O N
by Peter Thabit Jones
Dear Mr. Hirsch
As a fellow poet and human being, I implore you to withdraw as a judge in a competition that will be part of a series of events misrepresenting things, in effect for the benefit of certain elements in the Lithuanian government. Alternatively, as suggested by colleagues, a simple requirement that each of the wrongfully defamed Jewish Holocaust Survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance be issued a full and public apology would bring the matter to a rapid close.
O P I N I O N
by Arthur Dobrin
I am writing to you because it has come to my attention that you are to be the judge in the Avrom Sutzkever Poetry Translation Prize. Many years ago I came across a book of Sutzkever and have used several lines from his poems in a book of mine on bereavement. I was deeply touched by his work and wanted to share it with others.
by Monica Lowenberg
Riga, 1943: Latvian soldiers proudly march with a Latvian flag and a Nazi flag. Some of the men were conscripted into the Waffen SS, but a number were volunteers.
Officially speaking, the annual neo-Nazi march on Lithuania’s independence day earlier this month, complete with swastikas, sieg heils and white power jackets, had been “moved” by the municipality from Vilnius’s central boulevard, Gedimino, to the rather less prestigious location across the river in Shnípishok (Šnipiškės), and the move was confirmed by the courts. But it was all a fiction. On the day, the police facilitated the neo-Nazis’ march up Gedimino as usual without the slightest hint of disapproval, let alone transfer to one of the bridges leading across the river. See our report, and the eyewitness accounts by Anna Shepherd and Geoff Vasil.
A month has now elapsed since the online Lithuania Tribune took a defamatory press release as God’s-honest-truth news, in absence of the slightest attempt to obtain a quote from the victim, or indeed anyone with a contrasting view. The press release came not from a news agency, but the highly partisan executive director of the “Red-Brown Commission” (the full and rather Orwellian name of which is “The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania”). The Commission is highly controversial to say the least, and resignations to date (all on principle) from its associated bodies include Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Sir Martin Gilbert (London), Prof. Gershon Greenberg (Washington, DC), Prof. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney) and Prof. Dov Levin (Jerusalem). Moreover, while putting forward an educational image to donors, it is in fact the ultranationalist political engine of a sizable part of the Double Genocide movement in Eastern Europe today, and this dubious role has been brought to light repeatedly. Major statements on the Commission’s activities came in 2012 from its former member Yitzhak Arad, and from the world’s last active association of Holocaust survivors from Lithuania.
E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T
by Evaldas Balčiūnas
Žagarė (known in Yiddish as Zháger), Lithuania, always brings a warm feeling. It is a small, multicultural town. While Jews long accounted for half the population, unfortunately they are only a memory now. Germans, Latvians, Roma and Lithuanians continue to live here. There was room enough for everyone up until 1941.
I had the opportunity today to visit Žagarė to honor those who sought to insure that Žagarė would continue to have enough space for everyone. I traveled to a ceremony to honor Edvardas Levinskas (1893-1975), Terese Levinskienė (1903-1949) and Lilija Vilandaitė (1900-1948), posthumous recipients of the Righteous Among the Nations, or Righteous Gentile, award, conferred by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Compiled by Geoff Vasil
The Lithuanian publication Atgimimas carries an interview with an anonymous defector from Julius Panka’s Union of Lithuanian Nationalist Youth, who claims he got out and didn’t march this year because many of the people in the organization are, despite claims by right-wing politician sponsors and Panka, “real Nazis.” The young man interviewed was afraid to use his real name. Republished on Lithuanian delfi.lt news site.
One of the last photos of Dr. Marina Solodkin, who came to protest the Waffen SS march in Riga on March 16th 2013, shortly before her sudden death in her hotel room. Photo by Juris Kaža.
Marina Solodkin (1952 — 2013)
Dr. Marina Solodkin, 60, a Moscow native and former member of the Israeli Knesset, died in her hotel room, of an apparent heart attack or stroke, in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on March 16th. She had come to join activities to protest this year’s Waffen SS march earlier that day. [UPDATE: See now reports in Arutz Sheva, Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Press, JTA, The Times of Israel, YNet; a brief biography appears on the Israeli Foreign Ministry's website.]
A screen-capture of Dr. Solodkin’s final Facebook posting, from Israel on March 15th before setting off for Riga, appears below. It translates:
Reporting in today’s Lrytas.lt (Lietuvos rytas), Dovydas Pancerovas describes the parliamentary honors bestowed on organizers of last Monday’s March 11th neo-Nazi march on the main boulevard, Gedimino, of the nation’s capital, Vilnius (DH eyewitness reports by Anna Shepherd and Geoff Vasil; see also page 1 report). The following translation from the original Lithuanian is by Geoff Vasil.
Lithuania’s Social Democratic Party (LSDP), now in power, issued a statement on 14 March concerning the March 11th neo-Nazi march on the central boulevard of the nation’s capital city, Vilnius. The following is an English translation of the statement, which contrasts somewhat in tone with that of the prime minister who is from the same party.
Nationalists Violating Principles of Democracy Can No Longer Use Democracy as Cover
14 March 2013
The unsanctioned march by nationalists that took place on Gedimino prospektas on the March 11th holiday tore away the veil of democracy from those who call themselves “patriotic youth.” Citizens who support democracy must pay heed to decisions made by democratic institutions, and ignoring such needs to be interpreted as anti-constitutional behavior.
O P I N I O N
by Monica Lowenberg
If you walked through a busy EU city today and came across Eichmann Allee, Hitler Strasse or even Goebbels Gasse you would initially think that someone was pulling your leg or you would start to raise, and rightly so, serious questions regarding the ruling government that would allow such blatant glorification of mass murderers to take place. You can therefore imagine how I felt, the daughter of a German Jewish refugee whose paternal Latvian Jewish family had all been brutally murdered in the Libau massacres of 1941 and Riga ghetto, to discover in 2011, that each and every 16 March, since 1998, SS veterans are glorified in the capital city of Riga in Latvia an EU and NATO country since 2004.
My name is Monica Lowenberg; I was born on a cold winter’s day in 1964, in ear shot of Bow Bells.
On January 20, 2012, I set up a petition to stop the 16th March marches in Riga, ninety years to the day from the date of birth of my uncle Paul Theodor Loewenberg who at age 19 was sent to the Riga Ghetto on 4 October 1941. The petition is as much an act of commemoration of the victims of Nazism as it is a tribute to the European parliamentarians, including a number from Latvia, who wisely and courageously signed on the 20 January last year 2012, the Seventy Years Declaration, commemorating Wannsee, a declaration which specifically rejects glorification of Latvia’s Waffen SS, along with Estonia’s Waffen SS and the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) in Lithuania.
O P I N I O N
by Pinchos Fridberg (Vilnius)
Editor’s note: This article was first published by Professor Fridberg in Russian in Мы здесь. The following translation, by Ludmila Makedonskaya, was commissioned by Defending History, and it appears with Professor Fridberg’s permission, and with Defending History’s sole responsibility for the translation. The original text is authoritative in any instance of doubt or nuance.
On December 13th, 2012, the portal Zman.com published my article (in Russian) “Instead of the Truth About the Holocaust — Myths About Saving Jews.” It was republished by a number of websites including Newswe.com. I sent a picture and added one important phrase specifically for your site. The fundamental point: the article was republished (in Russian and in English) by the official site of the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC).
Instead of an immediate public apology for providing unreliable information and closing the matter, they started looking for a way to discredit me personally. You will ask why? My answer is because the article ends with three not very convenient questions. I should pay tribute to the Lithuanian journalist Račas who did not remain in the background, but answered very straightforwardly and simply:
E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Geoff Vasil
This March 11, the day in 1990 when the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic declared Lithuania sovereign and separate from the Soviet Union, was celebrated in Vilnius in the usual manner: neo-Nazis, skinheads, their young and naive followers and a gaggle of elderly politicians—both serving MPs and has-beens—assembled and marched up the main boulevard chanting nationalist and anti-minority slogans, scaring children and generally making the streets unsafe for normal activities.
There was a slight difference this year, but if you hadn’t been following the Lithuanian media—if you had just arrived in town, don’t speak Lithuanian and don’t make a habit of following the Lithuanian neo-Nazis and antisemitic press—you wouldn’t have known it.
LONDON—Latvia’s ambassador to the UK has responded to a UK Conservative Party MP’s question about the Waffen SS events held in the center of Latvia’s capital, Riga, on March 16th each year. The office of UK Parliament MP David Amess, who represents Southend West, released the response dated 1 March 2013, which he received from the Latvian ambassador to the UK, HE Eduards Stiprais. It is reproduced in full below (as PDF here), courtesy of the office of Monica Lowenberg in London, whose petition and media guide have brought the Latvian SS marches to increased international scrutiny.
See also Monica Lowenberg’s 2012 exchange of ideas with the Latvian ambassador to the UK. More in Defending History’s Latvia section.
E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Anna Shepherd
Photos by Anna Shepherd; they may be reproduced with accreditation to Defending History (this page) and to Ms. Shepherd.
An unsanctioned neo-Nazi march took place today on Gedimino Boulevard, the main avenue of central Vilnius, as Lithuania celebrated its 1990 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. It had an estimated three thousand participants, the largest number ever.
Vilnius authorities had this year issued a permit for the nationalists’ march to take place on Upės Street, a venue across the river, further from the city center. Instead of the neo-Nazi march that has occurred each year since 2008, this year Gedimino was supposed to be host of “Laisves Vejas” (Wind of Freedom), a celebration of freedom and independence including music, dance, poetry and other wholesome performances.
But after failing to receive permission to march on Gedimino, the organizers of the neo-Nazi march applied for permission to march on a route in the Old Town. However, in a press conference held on 8th of March, Vilnius Mayor Artūras Zuokas confirmed that a permit was being issued only for Upės Street and a march at any other location would be illegal. Following this decision, the organizer of the march, the Union of Nationalist Youth, hinted about the possibility of an unsanctioned march.
O P I N I O N / E Y E W I T N E S S A C C O U N T
by Emily Sheinbaum
On a rainy London evening, Thursday the 7th of March, six protesters met at University College London (UCL), for Cassedy had come to town. Her public talk initially scheduled to take place in the Garwood lecture theatre was unexpectedly changed to the Medawar Lankester lecture theatre two days prior. People on the Hebrew department’s Institute of Jewish Studies email list were notified of the change in venue but the details were, curiously enough, not updated on UCL’s website.
Nevertheless, despite such last minute logistical alterations, protesters against Cassedy’s book tour that is underway “in association” with the Lithuanian government met at 6:30 PM in the narrow corridor leading to the Lankester theatre. By a small table they strategically positioned themselves ready to warmly greet the 45 odd attendees who politely walked past and eagerly took handouts concerning the Lithuanian government’s recent actions since 2006, Ms. Cassedy’s association with the government, petitions, letters and book reviews.
O P I N I O N
The Defending History community welcomes today’s news that a street (and/or square) in the Verkiai district, Vilnius’s northernmost neighborhood (and popularly considered to be just north of the city), may be named for Ona Šimaitė, the enormously courageous librarian who defied the Nazis and their local collaborators by risking her life to save Jewish citizens of the country. Her life has recently come to new and deserved attention thanks to Julia Sukys’s important recent book, Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Simaite.